Lofty expectations can accompany classic films regarded as masterpieces for anyone who hasn’t seen them. That’s especially true for a groundbreaking, revolutionary sci-fi noir film like Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner.” When I watched it for the first time, it let me down. I had seen so many films inspired by it and heard so much about this groundbreaking film, that there was no way it could ever live up to the decades of accolades. Unlike previous generations, I could never experience “Blade Runner” as something totally new, without huge expectations.
Luckily, watching “Blade Runner 2049,” I think I’ve come to better understand the amazement people have with the original, because this sequel blew me away.
From the opening shot, I was captivated. This is a beautiful movie with breathtaking visuals. Denis Villeneuve, the man behind “Arrival” and “Sicario,” was the perfect successor to Ridley Scott to re-capture this sprawling universe. We get to see more of this world than ever before, especially with its epic, almost three-hour run-time. If you fell in love with the aesthetic of the first film, get ready to fall in love all over again and feel like you’re on a honeymoon with the love of your life.
The mythos and philosophy of the original “Blade Runner” is also taken to new heights. “Blade Runner 2049” not only deepens the questions presented in its predecessor, but also poses new questions of its own. After so many newer franchises have toyed with ideas from the original, the questions presented in “Blade Runner” can seem shallow to modern viewers, but “2049” gives you new material to digest, and more moral dilemmas to ponder. It takes the story-telling potential of its universe to present unique situations and questions that both feel like a natural progression from the first film, and something new entirely.
The story is grand, and full of twists and turns that can only come from the universe of “Blade Runner.” Villeneuve adds his signature touch of uneasy tension to certain beats of the story, making this movie stand out as its own work, rather than just expanding the work of an old master. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford play their respective characters magnificently, with Ford giving his most compelling performance in years.
If you’re a keen-eyed viewer, “Blade Runner 2049” gives you enough pieces to easily figure out information on your own. Despite this, the film sometimes feels the need to spell things out for you anyway, and it temporarily breaks any engagement you may have had. While this may make it more accessible to a broader audience, like the narration added to the theatrical cut of the first “Blade Runner” (though not nearly as bad as that sort of addition), it feels entirely unnecessary.
I can never watch the original “Blade Runner” with fresh eyes, but “2049” has shown me what an amazing experience its universe is. If you loved the original, you’ll love this one. If you’re like me and weren’t impressed with “Blade Runner,” this film may show you the light and convert you into a true believer. Treat yourself and see this one on the big screen.